Of all the NFL drafts in my lifetime, the opening round of the 2023 edition was as wild as any I have ever seen. NFL fans got a little bit of everything with some massive trades, team's going in directions that were never expected pre-draft, and teams either finding spectacular value or simply going in the opposite direction throughout the first 31 picks. Of those picks, here were my 10 favorite selections from last night's opening round.
No. 10 - Bryce Young to the Carolina Panthers (Pick 1)
Nothing too fancy here. The Panthers absolutely could have fumbled the proverbial bag by going elsewhere here, Will Levis specifically, but made the right choice with Young. If he was a few inches taller, I really believe we're talking about him in close to the same breath as Trevor Lawrence in terms of QB prospects coming into the league over the last decade. He's a smooth operator in the pocket with a great arm, ice cold when you need a big play, and most importantly, he's a winner. Sky's the limit with him in Carolina with that all-star coaching staff.
No. 9 - Broderick Jones to the Pittsburgh Steelers (Pick 14)
Had it in my final mock that the Steelers needed to trade up with the Patriots, for the sole purpose of being ahead of the Jets for an offensive lineman. That worked out to perfection, however, the player selection turned out differently, with Omar Khan getting Broderick Jones instead of Darnell Wright, who was selected five picks prior. In any event, Jones is a tad under-experienced all things considered, but has some tremendous upside as an offensive tackle, and is already an elite run blocker. Could see him being a fan favorite in Yinzer Nation in short order.
No. 8 - Myles Murphy to the Cincinnati Bengals (Pick 28)
Not the biggest faller of this EDGE group, but it wasn't by much. Still, Murphy is a guy who should have never been on the board this late, and the Bengals got some insane value at this point in the draft, even if EDGE wasn't a pressing need compared to say cornerback or tight end. Some of the smallest hands ever for the position, but Murphy is still a freaky athlete with the tools and skillset to be a more than fine player in the NFL. Some really good juice in the pass rush department for Cincy now with him, Hendrickson, Ossai, and Hubbard.
No. 7 - Paris Johnson Jr to the Arizona Cardinals (Pick 6)
Not the direction that I expected the Cardinals to go, but I love the irony that they went offensive line right away in the first draft post-Steve Keim. This probably will force D.J. Humphries over to the right side I'd imagine, but these are good problems to have as an organization. Additionally, Monti Ossenfort essentially turning the 3rd, 34th, and 168th picks into picks No. 6, 33, 81, and then a future first and third-rounder is just phenomenal work. Cardinals fans should be very pleased about their future outlook, on top of the fact that it sounds like DeAndre Hopkins isn't going anywhere just yet.
No. 6 - Devon Witherspoon to the Seattle Seahawks (Pick 5)
Based on where their roster is at right now, I didn't expect Seattle to add to their secondary until round three realistically. In Jon Schnider fashion, he made a couple of slam dunk curveball picks and got my No. 1 corner in Witherspoon, then my No. 2 receiver in Jaxon Smith-Njigba 15 picks down the road. Talking about the former here, Witherspoon going into a secondary that already has Tariq Woolen, Quandre Diggs, and Julien Love, with Jamal Adams slated to be back from injury at some point in the year is a godsend for both player and team. Wouldn't call this the Legion of Boom 2.0 by any stretch, but the Illinois product is the final piece to turn the Seahawks' secondary from good to elite.
No. 5 - Zay Flowers to the Baltimore Ravens (Pick 22)
I knew the microsecond the Patriots passed on Flowers that he was going to be a Raven. Eric De Costa has a knack for taking guys in the draft that I like (David Ojabo, Jayln Armour-Davis, Tyler Linderbaum, Isaiah Likely, etc) and the BC receiver was near the top of my own list of prospects, in general, this year. As far as the fit, putting him alongside Odell Beckham Jr and Rashod Bateman, and let alone Mark Andrews is a horrifying problem for the rest of the AFC. Especially now that the Ravens made Lamar Jackson a very rich man just hours before selecting Flowers. I'm expecting some big things out of him in the purple and black. Here's a thread I did on him some time ago for any Ravens fans that come across this, you'll love him, trust me.
No. 4 - Will Anderson to the Houston Texans (Pick 3)
In terms of what the Texans gave up to go from 12-to-3, they probably overpaid the Cardinals. However, they overpaid to get the single best player in the entire draft and you can absolutely live with that wheater you're a Texans fan or in that front office. With the way Will Anderson spoke about the Texans in the pre-draft process, it felt like this was a perfect fit and I think there is some mortifying potential with him in a DeMeco Ryans-led defense. Can't put a value tag on having a guy like Anderson for the next five years at the absolute bare minimum.
No. 3 - Anthony Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts (Pick 4)
I didn't think Chris Ballard had it in him to make the right choice here, and my jaw was through the floor when Goodell didn't announce to the world that Will Levis was the newest Indianapolis Colt. Felt like it was a mortal lock the Kentucky product was going at No. 4 for multiple months now, and luckily for the Colts' sake, they got themselves the better option in Richardson. I also think they could take things with Richardson however they want to. Start him over Gardner Minshew, have him sit behind until they need a new voice in the huddle, or just flat out red shirt him ala Patrick Mahomes or Trey Lance. No real bad decision for Shane Steichen and his staff here, they have a superstar on their hands assuming they do right by Richardson.
No. 2 - Christian Gonzalez to the New England Patriots (Pick 17)
Was not expecting Gonalez to slip by the Lions even after Devon Witherspoon got taken from right under their feet. My shock that he then slipped out of the top 15 was also apparently shared by those in the New England war room, as they didn't seem to anticipate him being available even after trading down with the Steelers. As a Patriots fan, Zay Flowers was my target and the guy I believed they would go after, but they effectively got threatened with a good time when Gonzalez just kept going unpicked. And not only did they pick up a guy with specific traits at a position of need, but they also forced their arch-rivals in the New York Jets into making a big reach for Will McDonald with no offensive line targets left for them at 15 and got a free fourth-rounder for the trouble. It appears the Hoodie still has the fastball after all.
No. 1 - Nolan Smith to the Philadelphia Eagles (Pick 30)
I was slowly descending into madness with each passing selection where Smith was still on the board. I get the pec injury potentially scaring teams off, but he is an athletic freak who jumps off the screen when you watch him. The league simply allowed him to slip out of the top 10, then the top 20, then fall right into the lap of Howie Roseman at pick 30. Smith was one of "My guys" for a ton of reasons, and on pure talent is probably a top 10 guy in this class. Roseman continues to make this look far easier than it should be, and he did nothing!!! Other GMs did all the work for him. Also, Smith, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, and Haason Reddick on the edge is just an embarrassment of riches assuming all four guys are roster locks.
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